Participant feedback for the 2023 Researcher to Reader Conference, delivered in a hybrid format on 21-22 February, shows continued high levels of satisfaction with the event, with delegates rating the Conference very positively. Of those responding to the survey, 94% to 98% rated the Conference relevant, valuable and recommendable, with the content overall receiving 89% positive ratings. The plenary sessions received average scores ranging from 3.0 to 3.5 (out of 4) and the lightning talks averaged 3.2 overall. The majority of the workshops received 100% positive feedback, with an average score of 3.7. The event administration got 96% positive feedback and the AV an impressive 100% from both physical and online participants. More details are given below.
The survey, completed by 60 out of about 200 participants, showed over 98% of respondents agreeing that the Conference was relevant to them professionally, and 94% saying it was valuable use of their time and that they would recommend it to others. Just three respondents said that R2R was not valuable to them, although two of these did describe their workshops as ‘brilliant’ and ‘excellent’, and rated several sessions as ‘great’.
The plenary sessions at the Conference (including panels, presentations and the debate) also received a highly positive response across the board. All sessions received an average rating of 3.0 to 3.5 (out of 4). This consistent range of high scores shows that the vigorous curation of the programme is highly effective in ensuring all sessions are of high quality, and are valued by the vast majority of participants. Five of the plenary sessions were rated as ‘Great’ by over half of the respondents, with particular highlights being the debate (with 66% of respondents rating this as ‘Great’) and the panel on the future of OA funding (with 92% of respondents rating this positively).
The hybrid interactive workshops were also all highly rated, receiving an average rating of 3.3 to 3.9 (with around 5-10 responses for each of these breakout sessions). Almost everybody rated their workshop ‘Good’ or ‘Great’. The session providing feedback from all the workshops, given to the whole Conference, was viewed positively by 100% of respondents.
The lightning talk sessions also received generally positive feedback, with average scores ranging from 3.1 to 3.4 (based on around 10-15 responses for each talk given by those who actively chose to attend these optional sessions). The lightning talks are proving to be consistently (and increasingly) popular, even though some are purely commercial presentations.
The overall content and structure of the Conference was positively reviewed, with almost all respondents giving very positive scores and comments on the content of the sessions. Confusingly, a few people commented R2R was too ‘publisher-centric’, while others said that there was not enough content relevant to publishers. We aim to offer topics covering the whole scholarly communications ecosystem, as content is passed from the researcher to the reader, but this does mean we can seem a bit too ‘broad’ for some people.
The format and timetable for the Conference was also positively reviewed by over 70% of respondents, although there was some dissatisfaction with the pace of the event (with some people reporting that the breaks or the sessions were too long, and others that they were too short). Our shift to a later start and finish and to a two-break structure (partly to cater to the time-zone needs of US-based online participants) was questioned, or actively disliked, by several people. Our increased proportion of panels over presentations (partly driven by a desire to offer a highly interactive experience for online participants) was disliked by a few respondents, while others valued the interactivity. Several respondents suggested that the lightning talks should be part of the plenary programme, not running during the breaks, although it would be challenging to find time to schedule this, and some people might dislike ‘non-optional’ commercial presentations. Encouragingly, several people suggested that the problem was an excess of good content, and that we should move to a 3-day event. We will review the format and timetable for future events in the light of this feedback.
The online platforms – the digital venue (Eventscase) and the virtual rooms (SpatialChat) – got generally positive reviews, but the use of the virtual rooms to deliver hybrid lightning talks (aimed at making this easier for online participants) was not satisfactory for many physical participants – although the talks themselves went well – and a few people reported having problems using the online resources. Several physical participants were disgruntled at being encouraged to use the digital platform for text chat. The audio-visual presentation, managed by our partners Giggabox, received 100% positive reviews from both online and physical participants.
The event administration, managed by The Events Hub, got 96% positive scores, and only a handful of people now say that they get too many emails, almost balanced by people saying that our marketing communications are ‘just right’. Several people thought the print programmes (and the R2R jigsaw puzzles) were unnecessary and unsustainable, but many others were very keen on them. We recycled about 60 programmes after the event; in future we will probably continue to print a programme, but in smaller quantities and without posting them to delegates. Our remaining stock of cardboard jigsaw puzzles (printed in Latvia on sustainably-sourced card) will continue to make their appearance in future, but we may have to recycle some in the end.
The venue and catering (BMA House) got many positive comments during the event and in the feedback survey.
The feedback on the hybrid nature of R2R was vary varied, although most online people were impressed with the experience, and many online and physical participants were strongly supportive of hybrid. We were disappointed that no online participants took the opportunity to join the plenary Q&As live on screen, but many of them were very active in the hybrid workshops. All of the online respondents agreed that the Conference was relevant, valuable and recommendable, and on average they rated almost every aspect of the event slightly more positively than the physical participants. Several respondents were, however, very committed to a physical meeting experience, including some online participants who say that they plan to be physically at the venue next time, and some people were critical of the scheduling, platform and cost compromises necessitated by hybrid. Running a hybrid event is challenging and expensive, and certainly risks making things a little harder for physical participants, and for moderators and facilitators. We will have to carefully consider the viability and processes for hybrid in future.
Many of the comments in the survey were very positive, both about individual sessions and the event as a whole. Participants said:
- Interesting discussions; lively speakers
- Very relevant to me
- Engaging and thought-provoking
- The subjects covered were good
- Always fun and informative
- All the sessions were fantastic
- The conference was excellent
- I really love how interactive it is
- The workshops were brilliant
- Networking opportunities are excellent
- Excellent mix of attendees especially from US
- Great for networking
- Very good conference, quality of the hybrid experience a real strength
- The hybrid option worked well and online participants were visible
- Excellent hybrid experience/platform, congratulations to those responsible
- I’m really impressed how well the hybrid format worked and think it’s very innovative
- Administration very friendly and helpful
- Registration was excellent as was all the pre-conference support
- The organisation was brilliant
- Good marketing communications
- Good value, fair pricing
- The venue and catering were amazing
- Loved the vegan food!
- Excellent venue
Overall the survey results (and other feedback) suggest that 2023 Researcher to Reader Conference was informative and enjoyable for the vast majority of participants. We are reviewing all the feedback carefully to see what improvements can be made in future.
17 March 2023
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